Principles for reconciliation

March 5, 2010 at 2:57 pm Leave a comment

The session: Restore trust and rebuilding bridges
Group 1 Conflicts in perspective:
Memory, non-violence and trust-building
Session 1 Focus on perceptions of conflict, history narrative and communication.

The key questions to be addressed in this session were:

  • How can history narratives and heritage be developed as a tool for understanding conflictual issues in areas of diverse groups coexist.        
  • How can individual and collective memories lead intercultural dialogues practices and therefore tools for conflict understanding and resolution.
  • Define reconciliation and how to develop a shared meaning and common understanding
  • Positive and constructive experiences from the Euro-Med zone and ways to transfer them as shared models for building co-existance and trust  

The main aim is a transferable set of tools for the Anna Lindh Foundation which is both an NGO AND an intergovernmental organisation to assist in making the mediterranean area into a prosperous and stable region.

When I saw the set of questions I couldn’t help but think that this was a very ambitious agenda for such a short session with a group of people who are by and large not prepared for solving them even though they may each have very valuable experiences to contribute. Still a few principles emerged from the initiatives described.

  • The need to create an emotional connection between people who would not normally meet and who would instinctively dislike or hate each other.
  • The turning point is often to be able to recognise the suffering of the other party
  • Finding common ground can lead to finding a common history
  • The need to find a common history, if it exists but not to force it if there is no such overlap.
  • Restricting ourselves to the common ground can narrow our choices.The administrative implementation of a peace agreement needs to be followed up by a peace agreement of the mind.
    Cultural memory is important and you need to find out whose voice is missing
    Different people experience the same thing in different ways. Even false stories are part of people’s identity and cannot be changed.
  • Aim should be to reach ‘sufficient consensus’ rather than complete consensus.
  • Stop looking for a just solution
  • Teaching critical evaluation of historical sources can be useful in present day life.
  • A step forward is when each side recognises the most important issue on the other side. Eg sovereign borders for Israel and sovereignty for the Palestinians.
  • Is the effect of small interventions effective? Many projects take the low fruit of people who are sympathetic in the first place. Are we preaching to the choir? Some of the projects present in the session denied this was the case and insisted that they were reaching ordinary people and not just the already sympathetic.
  • Often meetings between two conflicting groups results in them hating each other more. How can we prepare people for such encounters so that does not happen?
  • Tolerance is not necessarily very positive. Instead of reconciliation and tolerance perhaps we should be talking about mass mobilisation. 

Some memorable quotes:

  • The assertion that the people of France, Germany and Luxembourg are still suffering the after-effects of World War 2 psychologically.
  • History always teaches but has few students
  • Old people talk about the past, young people talk about the future. (This must be a young person’ quote as it was also noted during the session that young people often have no idea of even recent history from the past 20 years and this often deepens the conflict).

The case study I liked the most

Israeli environment organisation which brings together Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians. Students live together for a year. Get to know each other. Has existed 13 years andthey have about 600 graduates. Multiplier effect through families. Often it was the first time they’d met someone from the other side. The environment issue is the focus, not the conflict. But the conflict is addressed. At first they tried to leave the issue out but that lead to conflict! So now it’s included. Have positive results. During the Gaza war – they thought it would collapse. The students were sharing rooms. But no-one left. One left and returned after seeing their peace vigil on TV.


The brief was to aim for general prinicples and not to concentrate on specific conflicts but inevitably the session turned on the subject of the Arab-Israeli conflict more than any other. The discussion continues tomorrow.

Anne Fox


Entry filed under: Creating Spaces of Peace and Coexistence. Tags: , , .

The Anna Lindh Foundation broke the siege … Migrants and Cities

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Pictures from the Anna Lindh Forum

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